Do people want a list of hustings for the Scottish 2016 election? (MeetYourNextMSP)

At the General Election 2015, I ran MeetYourNextMP with Democracy Club. This was a crowd sourced list of hustings around the country, and we made the listings we collected available for others as Open Data. Our mission was to get more people involved in politics by spreading knowledge of hustings and encouraging more people to go to hustings.

[If your wondering what a hustings is, that only goes to show how unaware of these events many people are. It’s a public event where you can question a panel of candidates standing for an election.]

With help from many contributors, we collected details of over 1,000 events in over 400 seats. We were cited by all kinds of people, including Citizens Advice Bureau, MIND for better mental health, The Campaign against the Arms trade, MacMillian Cancer Support and senior politicians across the party spectrum.

It wasn’t perfect (there are several long blog posts if you are interested in some of the issues), but for a small project with zero marketing budget it did very well. I would argue it showed that there is a need for hustings listings, and that this kind of project can go a long way towards meeting that.

However, it was a pretty gruelling time. I was working mainly by myself alone in Edinburgh, flat out and I was pretty burnt out by the time it was all over. We weren’t paid in any way for it, had costs to cover, and couldn’t do other paid work at the same time.

So, as the Scottish elections of 2016 approach, the question is do people want to see a MeetYourNextMSP? A website listings hustings in Scotland?

Is anyone so keen to see this they are prepared to help out? Either with a commitment of time, resources or money? For example, if there was a crowd funder, would they contribute? Could they contribute skills? Or even just time to go round and find events and add them to the site? (There is an easy process to do this, no tech skills required!)

Basically, I am trying to gauge the support a Scottish site in 2015 would get before I commit. To be really honest, without promises of substantial support from others I won’t be running this project. (I now have a 3 day a week job that this would have to work around to.)

Please comment below or if you’d rather comment in private an email address can be found here.



ps. Yes, I’m aware there are other big elections in 2016 (eg, Wales, London mayor). However, I strongly feel a local connection to the area is important to get the best out of community event sites like this. For that reason I would not get involved in hustings projects for those elections – but if other local groups wanted to do this I would happily share expertise, lessons learnt and Open Source software with them.

pps. Democracy Club’s core project is a Open Data set of all candidates standing with information about them. This was very heavily used during the General Election and they will be repeating this in Scotland in 2016.

How do we know what events people want to see on MeetYourNextMP?

MeetYourNextMP was a crowdsourced calendar of over 1000 independent events at the general election. This was to make these events easier to find so voters could go and question their candidates, and also to try and make more voters aware these events exist and are open to all.

When people came to the site, how did we know what events to show them? We asked people what their postcode was, and directed them to a page for each constituency. But what events did we show? Continue reading How do we know what events people want to see on MeetYourNextMP?

The problems finding details of independent hustings for MeetYourNextMP

“now that I follow my candidates, I’m really surprised how many hustings have happened / are happening that are terribly badly advertised” – Democracy Club Volunteer

MeetYourNextMP was a crowdsourced calendar of over 1,000 independent events at the general election. This was to make these events easier to find so voters could question their candidates, and also to try and make more voters aware these events exist and that they are welcome at them. However, before we could start on the second goal we had to crack the first goal. Continue reading The problems finding details of independent hustings for MeetYourNextMP

Why MeetYourNextMP only listed independent events

MeetYourNextMP was a crowdsourced calendar of over 1,000 independent hustings or candidate forum events at the general election. Its purpose was to make these events easier to find so voters could go and question their candidates, and also to try to make more voters aware that these events exist and are open to all.

We chose to only list independent events. This was much discussed at the start and now the election’s over, it’s time to take a good look at this policy. Continue reading Why MeetYourNextMP only listed independent events

Made a Prototype maze game with a Twist!

So 3 years ago I wrote up this idea for a GPS Maze game I wanted to make. I played with the idea at a hackathon then blogged about it … then did nothing more as there was one piece of it that was really hard to do. But then just last week I searched and found a library for that, and now after about 10 hours work I have a working prototype!

The idea is to have a GPs maze game, but based around a map that someone has drawn on a particular place. You draw a maze on a map:


Then you download the maze onto your phone, go out to the actual place and play it! We’ve just been out for a walk to test it in an Edinburgh park.


The advantage of this over the usual maze games that just drop down a maze wherever you happen to be is that the maze designer can take account of any natural barriers or features that might make the maze more interesting, and they can avoid things that would be actively dangerous like main roads.

It could be a great way to explore a new area, or see a familiar area in a different light. And it could be fun to draw mazes on areas you know, and set people puzzling.

Lots to do on this still, so please excuse me not putting the code/app online yet – but let me know if you want to play! Android V4+ on phones with GPS only at the moment I’m afraid.

Are you doing a church website? UI protip

I’ve been looking at a lot recently (guess who tends to hold hustings) and the number that don’t have the actual full address and postcode of the church is crazy. A lot have the full address for the office, with no indication if that is also the address of the church or not. I guess they assume anyone looking at their website already knows where it is – but great way to reach out to new people, organisations that are currently worrying about a lack of new people!

Mind you, I’ve long been of the opinion that any website for a physical place (church,restaurant, whatever) that doesn’t have a big “How to find us” menu option that links to a page with a map, address, public transport and parking notes, etc was designed by morons.

#ge2015 election project @meetyournextmp looking good, 30 days to election!

For the General election I’m working on MeetYourNextMP with the other volunteers from Democracy Club. This site, using the community calendar software I work on (OpenACalendar), lists indepedent hustings around the UK.

There were several new challenges to work on for this project, and to launch really quickly I just forked the code base and hacked any changes I needed directly into the core system! This was great, but after the site was live for a week I had to spend a horrible few days picking the changes apart and pushing some back to the Open Source core, pushing some changes to a extension just for this site and in some cases making the core more extendable to accomodate that. I’m pleased to say MeetYourNextMP is now run directly from the latest Open Source code from OpenACalendar with an extension and after the election there will be a new release of OpenACalendar (and the sites that run on that like OpenTechCalendar) with all kinds of goodies.

MeetYourNextMP is doing well, listing over 540 events in over 240 seats. It’s had great feedback and has been listed by all kinds of people like Citizens Advice Bureau, MIND for better mental health, The Campaign against the Arms tradeMacMillian Cancer Support and more.

It’s now 30 days to the election, and I’m not sure what that will bring for the site. I think it’s clear that there is already enought evidence to say both that some things have worked really well and that people really want a site like this, and they really want it to work well – for a first try at this that’s a great outcome. For me personally, it’ll be a tiring crazy month and I’ll be glad when it’s over!

Learn Tech Edinburgh

Several months back I wrote this blog post “Adults wanting to learn to code?“. It got a great response and we ran 4 trial sessions over June and July.

We wanted to run an informal group, where people wanting to learn could meet up and chat, help each other or just have a place to work to make them actually do it. There would be several programming mentors on hand to help people if they got stuck.

There are several programmes with set courses going around, and in contrast this was to be a group where people worked on what they wanted to. Most people worked on Python, mostly through Codecademy.

This wasn’t exclusively aimed at under-represented groups in programming, but we do want to make sure we have a very inclusive atmosphere for learners where they can feel very welcome. We briefly discussed various rules or guidelines for this.

We wanted to run some trial sessions quietly just to see how it went with a small crowd so we didn’t advertise to heavily. It seemed to go pretty well – we may be having a feedback session to discuss more. I could write more on how I think it went, but I want to hear more feedback from others first.

(And we need to think of a better name – that common problem of new things!)

We’re now going to try opening it up to more people as we carry on. If you’re interested in attending drop me a email and I’ll add you to the email discussion list. [ james at jarofgreen dot co dot uk ]

Thanks to everyone who has encouraged this, been keen about coming and the other mentors!